China’s National Health Commission will stop publishing daily COVID-19 case numbers, after the accuracy of its data was questioned as millions were infected nationwide and the official tally remained strikingly low.
The commission didn’t provide a reason for the change in policy in a statement on Sunday, but said that the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention will release COVID-related information for studies and reference.
Some Chinese cities have reported daily infections that far surpassed the official tally, adding to doubt of the numbers provided by the NHC.
As many as 248 million people, or nearly 18% of the population, likely contracted the virus in the first 20 days of December, according to minutes from an internal meeting of China’s National Health Commission held on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported. Hospitals in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai have been overwhelmed, while crematoriums are struggling to cope.
In an illustration of the unreliability of data, Zhejiang province, next to Shanghai, said it has more than 1 million daily COVID-19 infections and expects the number to peak at 2 million, Zhejiang Daily reported Sunday, citing local officials as saying at a health briefing.
The city of Dongguan in the southern province of Guangdong said Friday that 250,000 to 300,000 people were being infected on a daily basis. Qingdao city in the eastern province of Shandong is seeing 490,000 to 530,000 daily cases based on data projections, according to a local newspaper report. Yet, the official NHC tally for Dec. 23 was 4,103 cases.
On Sunday, China expanded the use of a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine. A National Health Commission’s statement said that people who are three and above can receive a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products’ unit. Until now, it was approved only for adults. Those who are fully vaccinated with a Zhifei product can get one booster shot after six months, according to the statement.
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